Of all breads in the world, my own homemade bread is my favourite. There, I said it! I love the process of making it, I love the smell when it is in the oven and I love eating it straightaway! I prefer running out of bread over buying one in the shop. Not just because I prefer homemade bread but also because if you do run out of bread, you need to be creative and find alternatives. Think pancakes for example or eggy bread if there are some dry crusts or leftovers of the previous bread in the tin! Breakfast muffins, overnight oats, any kind of porridge, cake, chia pudding, … just name it, a lack of bread may force you to get one of these lovely alternatives on the table.
Having said that, I do like bread, not just my own bread, I also like some of those very posh breads you can buy on farmer’s markets. But let’s be honest, you don’t come across the every day and they can be really expensive and inevitably, they are never as fresh as you can have your own homemade bread. Good quality bread especially, needs to be eaten super fresh, when it is at it’s best.
I have gotten used to making my own bread now, I do make some at least a few times a week. As I am getting more interested in the process of fermenting food, I started reading about sourdough bread. I learned these 2 main things about it:
- You don’t need any yeast at all to make sourdough bread
- Sourdough bread has got lots of health benefits
Normal bread has had a lot of bad press in the previous years because of the gluten in them and how gluten in some people cause problems for their gut (leaky gut and celiac disease). The fermenting process that is part of making a sourdough bread though breaks down the gluten in more digestible compounds. Some people with celiac disease can even digest some types of sourdough bread without any issues. Sourdough also has got a very low GI (glycemic index) meaning it lasts long in your tummy and you don’t get hungry very soon after, which is great if you are considering your body weight.
If you want to read more about the health benefits of sourdough bread without going too much into the scientific details, you could have a look at this article, I found enough detail in there to understand the process without being overwhelmed by the science behind it. Another very interesting article is this one from the Guardian, focussing a bit more on the history of sourdough bread as well as the health benefits.
I have made sourdough bread a few times now and it has been a succes, it is slightly sour but not very, it is just rich, firm and full of flavour. It works well with cheese, nut butters or a pile of salad on top!
It is so lovely to go through the process with the kids as they can follow the process of the fermenting and the growth of the bacteria in the starter. They almost become our pets in the kitchen as they show more and more bubbles over time. It takes a long time, but it isn’t that much work. You just need to stir the starter every so often while it ferments and you need to feed it with flour a few times. The kneading is exactly the same as in normal bread (twice), the rising only takes (much) longer. So it doesn’t require more work, just more time. It makes you think how people used to spend all this time preparing meals for the family!
For the starter:
- 3 x 100 grams light rye flour
- 2 x 100 ml water
For the bread
- 300 grams of the starter
- 400 grams wholemeal wheat flour
- 100 grams strong white bread flour
- tsp salt
- 250 ml luke warm water
Making sourdough bread is not done in a day, it is a slow process, it usually takes me over a week. I prefer to have it ready on a Saturday morning and therefore it works best to start on a Wednesday for example. Let’s call the Wednesday Day 1.
- Day 1: To make your starter take 100 grams of rye flour and add 100 ml of water to it in a well cleaned bowl. Stir and add additional water until you get the consistency of a this Greek yoghurt. Then cover with a kitchen towel. Leave in a draft free place at room temperature.
- Day 2 and Day 3 are most likely to be days you just check and stir your starter, preferably a few times a day, but don’t worry if you forget, once a day is allright. Hopefully you get some bubbles by day 3 but it is more likely to be ready for the first feed on Day 4.
- Hopefully you have some nice activity and lots of bubbles in your starter now. If so, add another 100 grams of rye flour and stir. Add as much water as necessary to keep the thickness of a thick Greek yoghurt (about 50 ml).
- If on Day 5 you still have lovely bubbles, feed again by adding another 100 grams of flour and some water. Leave again for at least 8 hours or longer if you prefer.
- If you fed the last time early in the morning, you could start mixing your dough in the evening of Day 5, if not leave until Day 6. I find it works best if you bring the dough together in the evening. Mix the flour and the salt together and add the starter in the middle. Stir and mix with the flour¹, add water bit by bit while you stir and start to knead. Knead well until you get a nice elastic, not sticky ball. If you added too much water, the dough becomes sticky. Put some flour on your kitchen top or dough mat and on the dough and knead again.
- Line a bread tin with baking paper and put your dough ball in the tin. Cover with a moist kitchen towel and leave to rise overnight.
- In the morning, knead the bread again, cover again with the moist kitchen towel and leave for several hours again until the dough has risen well. It should double it size, it may take most of the day again in some cases.
- When ready, preheat the oven on 220 °C. Bake the bread during 40 minutes, turning the temperature down to 170 °C after 20 minutes.
Enjoy the process and enjoy the bread!
¹: I used wholemeal wheat flour, but you can substitute this for any other type of flour. For the starter it is best to use rye as that seems to be best for the fermenting process. I tried that with wholemeal wheat flour first and that didn’t work as well as the rye flour.
I learned a lot about sourdough bread through the website of Wendy Walrabenstein and I watched her video about making sourdough bread over and over again. She has got the real spirit for this as she so calmly explains you again and again to wait yet another day for the lovely result you are anticipating.